Memento (2000) Poster

(2000)

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Absolutely No Spoilers Here--READ THIS REVIEW INSTEAD!!!!
soloyoda19 April 2001
Thank Goodness I didn't read the reviews posted before I saw the film!! Most reviews (including ones on this site) will tell you waaayyyy too much about the movie, and that's just plain frustrating. But, as an avid cinephile, I promise not to do the same.

Memento is one of those pictures that will have you sitting in the theater after the lights come up so you can talk to everyone else about what they thought of the movie. This is a highly intelligent and original brain teaser that will have you guessing from beginning to end, and even afterwards. The story and the direction are the best I've seen so far this year, and it deserves all the kudos it gets.

Plainly put, the film tells the story of Leonard Shelby: a man who lost his short term memory in an assault where his wife was raped and murdered; now he's looking for the killer, despite his handicap. Simple as that. You don't need to know anymore.

The film is constructed and told in such a way that you are constantly put into the shoes of Leonard Shelby, beautifully played by Guy Pierce. Carrie-Ann Moss gives an equally mysterious and complex performance. This film is well-made all the way around--from the direction, to the editing, and especially the unique story that is rarely found in Hollywood these days. Four Stars!

This review may have been a little dry on the details, but go see the movie--you'll be thanking me later.

PS: Only go to the official website AFTER you've seen the movie. It too will give too much away. Afterwards, though, go and look at it--it's pretty impressive.
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10/10
An unforgettable trip into the mind of a man with no memory
ltlrags18 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
If you're looking for something intense, suspenseful, and different than your usual effects-packed thriller, this is the best movie you will see all year. You will be talking about Memento at work, at the grocery store (to total strangers!), and you will find yourself joining conversations when you hear the word "Memento." That's why this little film that received almost no marketing stayed in theaters for months and was in the top 10 money makers for several weeks.

The movie starts with a murder -- a revenge killing, in fact. But was the right person killed?

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is a man with no short-term memory. He hasn't been able to form new memories since the night his wife was murdered. Now he's on a hunt to find the murderer but with no way of remembering names, dates, places, facts and faces. Instead he tattoos himself with mementos of his search. When someone knows his name, he checks Polaroids to see if he knows them. Does he like this person? Does he trust this person? Is this the killer? He doesn't know unless he's scribbled a note.

Don't worry about trying to empathize with Leonard because Writer/Director Christopher Nolan puts you right in Leonard's shoes. You live the story in reverse order so that you never know more than Leonard does. In one scene you see Leonard getting information from a person who knows him -- maybe a good person; maybe bad. In the next scene you see a previous meeting between the two which sheds more light on their relationship. Later still you see how they met. But is that all of the story? You've yet to find out... and you won't know everything until the last scene. By living it backwards, you, like Leonard, have no knowledge of what came before.

It's brilliant story telling. But you might get frustrated because you don't know what's going on. That's normal. In fact, that's the whole idea. Just sit back, try to relax (though that's difficult in this movie), and find out just how twisted and complex Leonard's world is.

This film will leave its own memento on your mind, and you'll have a hard time forgetting how much you enjoyed it.
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Addictive and fun to figure out
quixoboy1 September 2003
Christopher Nolan's "Memento" is truly a rare and exceptional achievement in modern filmmaking in that it manages to be new, fresh, hip, and exciting without ever tiring its audience out - unless you're walking into this film without the desire to participate and actively analyze the mysterious details.

If that's the case, then this is DEFINITELY not a movie you should see. If, on the other hand, you are open-minded, creative, and alert, you'll definitely appreciate and get a kick out of this one. "Memento" is an old-fashioned "film noir"-type mystery thriller with an intriguing, ingenious twist: outfitting the entire film with a style that mirrors the protagonist's own mental condition while giving the poor viewer(s) his own perspective as well. It is masterfully filmed and edited in such a way that it is chronologically presented backwards (with two initially separate, parallel storylines - the main one, shot in colour, is the chronologically-backwards story with scenes that intercut with those of the other story, which is filmed more like a documentary, shot in black & white, and mostly takes place inside a motel room with the main character narrating, talking about the effects of his condition, etc.) While the average viewer may already be put off by such a complicated, confusing format, it is a very original premise that is well worth the struggle to figure out.

Acting is solid across the board, as is the writing, directing, etc., but special kudos must be extended to the very talented editor Dody Dorn, who successfully managed to put all of these fragments together and help them flow in a smooth, healthy manner that is not easy to pull off.

One of the most "memorable" (sorry, couldn't help slipping in the bad joke) films you're likely to ever see, "Memento" is an instant classic due to its groundbreaking narrative style and impressive dramatic undertones. For those jaded moviegoers who seek something to keep them awake, interested, and constantly thinking, there couldn't be a better choice than this film.
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10/10
can't believe how much I'm still thinking the day after
lasher4224 May 2001
So the "innovative" concept of filming out of sequence has been cliche for at least a few years now, but here's a film that makes it work far better than its been shown in a while.

Having read the reviews and talked to others who saw it, I thought that I'd go into the movie figuring everything out right away and declaring the concept unworkable. I couldn't be further from the truth. This movie does things to your head that are illegal in some countries. Portrayed (for all intents and purposes) backwards, it forces you to think in the same way that our lead character, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce being more brilliant than usual) does. Suffering from a condition that renders him unable to remember anything for more than a few minutes, he is searching for the man who raped and killed his wife. Since each seen lasts no more than 15 minutes before jumping back to the what happened before that, our perceptions are shattered in the same way.

Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano (both of The Matrix) put in great performances that leave you guessing; simultaneously endearing and revolting.

Overall I left the film trying to figure out what was what, and I'm still not sure. This film noir concept shouldn't work, but it does so wonderfully.
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10/10
Innovative narrative structure makes for a powerful viewing experience
wkbeason9 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
FACT ONE: "Just because there are things I don't remember doesn't make my actions meaningless."

FACT TWO: "Your notes could be unreliable."

FACT THREE: "Memories can be distorted."

FACT FOUR: "But, even if you get your revenge, you won't remember it. You won't even know it's happened."

FACT FIVE: "I want time to pass, but it won't. How can I heal if I can't feel time?"

FACT SIX: "We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are."

When life becomes incomprehensible human beings tend to simplify things, revise memories, select facts that may or may not be representative of "the truth." We strive to make events as intelligible as possible but that act often has unintended consequences. Now, if you can capture this existential human reality on film in such a way as to allow the viewer to experience this struggle for understanding, for the placement of private aspirations into the context of the moment even as the primary character makes this same struggle, then you have connected our hearts and minds seamlessly with the film's lifeworld. That is a rarity indeed.

Such is Memento, a brilliantly conceived and executed work of art that has its audience literally at their wits end (just like the film's main character) trying to understand it all. The great debate of whether Teddy's version of the truth at the end is really "the truth" is symptomatic of director Christopher Nolan's purposeful craftsmanship. The very fact that we are as uncertain throughout most of the film as to the context of Leonard Shelby's actions as Leonard himself signifies that Nolan has succeeded in not just telling us Leonard's story put allowing us to know what it is like to *be* Leonard. This allows the film to work at a much deeper, almost subconscious, level scarcely achieved on film.

Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano all deliver terrific performances with some of the most original material I've seen in years. This film grabs your brain and won't let go. It twists and turns and – just when you think you've got things figured out – Nolan whips the rug out from under your feet. You are left totally involved and struggling with creating some sense of closure out of the infinite loop of the film's structure.

You can debate endlessly whether Teddy's final summary of events is the truth. You can argue both sides of whether Leonard killed his wife or invented Sammy Jankis out of thin air. In the end these are open questions. In the end there are no definitive answers. In fact, in the end ANY answer is plausible, just choose the one that sits best in your mind. Make that the truth. Because THAT is what this film is all about. It's about a man who can remember who he is but not what he has done and, to that extend, it is the prefect postmodern critique. We are often forced to act without sufficient information. The accelerating rush of our lives sends us headlong into our present without full consideration of where we've been. And on that level Memento provides a bold, compelling narrative that connects Leonard with every person. It is the mirror image of our divided selves.

No matter how much his audience might disagree with the film's conclusion, Nolan understands that - in the end - truth doesn't matter. It is what we choose to do with what we think is the truth that's important. And that can mean anything at all.
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10/10
Some memories are best forgotten. You have to appreciate how original a movie ‘Memento' really is!
Old Joe6 February 2003
Losing your memory would have to go close to one of the worst experience anyone could ever suffer from. In the movie ‘Memento', we get to see how bad it is to suffer from short term memory loss. It also gives us the chance to see how far a patient of such a disease will go to remember what is most important to him. In the vain of ‘Pulp Fiction', Memento is a movie that has to be seen to be believed. It is no wonder that this movie is so popular with the movie going public around the world.

Leonard Shelby wears expensive, tailored suits, drives a late model Jaguar sedan, but lives in cheap, anonymous motels, paying his way with thick wads of cash. Although he looks like a successful businessman, his only work is the pursuit of vengeance: tracking and punishing the man who raped and murdered his wife. The difficulty of locating his wife's killer is compounded by the fact that Leonard suffers from a rare, untreatable form of ‘amnesia'. Although he can recall details of life before his ‘accident' Leonard cannot remember what happened fifteen minutes ago, where he is, where he is going, or why.

Christopher Nolan has made one great (but confusing) movie. His style in directing and editing ‘Memento' is quite unique, as no movie has ever been made quite like it before. The story being told in a backward kind of motion makes the audience have to think hard about what they are watching. It also makes the audience feel for a guy like Leonard, whose condition only gets worse and worse as the movie goes on. I am almost 100% sure that Nolan and his brother Jonathan, made up this story in the realisation that it was meant to be confusing. What is also cleverly done by Nolan is the use of black and white and then colour shots. In my opinion, the variations in these shots are used so it confuses the audience even more.

Guy Pearce's role in ‘Memento' shows me why he is so successful in Hollywood today. Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man on the hunt for his wife's killer. The only problem is that Shelby is suffering from ‘anterior-grade amnesia', a disease that cannot be treated. With ‘Lenny', I feel the audience suffers partly the same condition as he does, and partly does not, as we can remember what has happened in the present.

Memento's other main stars include corrupt cop ‘Teddy' (Joe Pantoliano). A friend said of Pantoliano's performance in Memento, ‘he was perfect for the role of ‘Teddy', as he comes across as the mysterious bad guy'. I could not agree more. There is also the character of Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) who is a lot like Teddy in her own way. What is similar about these characters is the way they use Leonard's condition to advantage their own situations.

Other characters include Sammy Jenkis (Stephen Tobolowsky), who is a victim we learn about from an old case when Leonard Shelby was an insurance investigator. There is Leonard's wife, Catherine (C.S.I.'s Jorja Fox) who is another fascinating character. Although we do not hear her say much, she is a vital part of this most confusing story. Add in the funny role of Burt (Mark Boone Jnr.), the motel clerk, who openly admits to Lenny that he is ripping him off, by giving him two rooms, but that he will not remember it happening anyway.

Yet in no way do any of the characters in ‘Memento' realise they are in a time reversed movie. I am sure that many of the performers would have had to read their scripts many times to understand what was happening from a cinematic point of view. But from an acting prospective, this would have been an easy experience to be part of. Memento also has some interesting devices to tell the story. The way Leonard tries to remember things in the present and the future, via notes tattoos and photographs, making them an important element within the movie. Without them, our hero would not be able to remember anything.

Nonetheless, memory is the most vital element in this movie, because without it, people are confused, isolated and abused, which is what happens to our ‘hero', Leonard. As Lenny mentions early on in the film, "Memory's unreliable ... Memory's not perfect. It's not even that good. Ask the police; eyewitness testimony is unreliable ... Memory can change the shape of a room or the colour of a car. It's an interpretation, not a record. Memories can be changed or distorted, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts." But it has to be ironic that Leonard is the one who narrates ‘Memento', when his recollections and memories of events are inaccurate and jaded. There are also some powerful scenes in ‘Memento'. The one ‘which sticks in my mind the most' has to be where Natalie abuses Leonard, calling his dead wife a ‘whore', snorting smartly ‘that you won't be even able to remember what I have said'.

So, if you watch this movie and it confuses you the first or even the second time, I can assure you that is how you are meant to feel, confused. If you hated watching ‘Memento' the way Christopher Nolan intended, then I can only recommend that you get a hold of the DVD and watch it in chronological order, as it will really help you. Memento also shows how bad ‘mental disease' patients can be abused by healthy people and what lengths sick patients will go to try and keep ‘sane'. Also, if a movie makes you think, then in some way it has been successful in doing something that many movies do not do – making you think. Those sorts of cinematic experiences are the ones that we need to cherish for life, as they are few and far between. Memento is one such experience.

CMRS gives ‘Memento': 5 (Brilliant Movie)
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overused plot + often abused style = best movie of the year
Heretic Monkey7 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
A man with no short term memory tries to solve a murder. The scenes in the movie are played in reverse. Sounds like yet another run of the mill comedy but in reality is one of the best suspense/dramas I've seen in years.

While some may claim showing the scenes in reverse is just an annoying trick to make a simple plot confusing and add a plethora of twists, I wholeheartedly disagree. Any good story teller knows it's not what you say, but how you say it.

By playing the scenes in reverse you experience the confusion Lenny undergoes throughout the film. Showing some of the scenes in chronological order (BTW, the use of B&W instead of color to make the time distinction was ingenious) creates suspense which builds as the two timelines converge. The somewhat rushed pace (compared to a written format) doesn't give you enough time to adequately analyze the events during the movie. This has two advantages: firstly you're going to talk about it after you leave the theater adding to experience immensely, and secondly you don't have time to think about what has happened (will happen) so you're experience better follows that of Lenny.

While many might find the movie rather confusing, it flows wonderfully for anyone familiar with writing styles that constantly jump around a timeline (e.g. Catch 22).
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10/10
watch it early so you can see something else afterward.
adamp-631 January 2002
I saw "Memento" in the early afternoon, a fact for which I am thankful. Why? Because it then proceeded to dominate the majority of my thoughts for the rest of the day. That night I lay in bed, tossing and turning, my mind trying to wrap itself around the story, and I absolutely could not GO TO SLEEP!

I finally just gave up on sleep, got up around midnight, and watched "Election" to cleanse my palate. Then I went back to bed and starting contemplating "Memento" AGAIN. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, I went to sleep.

This is a movie that gets in your head and will not get out until you figure it all out. And that can only be done with extensive internet research. Reading "Memento Mori", the short story upon which the movie is "based" helped, too.

"Memento" is nothing short of a phenomenon. And a brilliant one at that.
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Confusion, uncertainty, and paranoia as an art form: possibly.
Pseudo-geordie boy25 January 2001
If I told you the entire plot of this film it really wouldn't matter as it is an exquisite paean to the subjectivity of memory and therefore is in itself ambiguous; the ‘truth' of it is up to you. You come out of the cinema questioning yourself, your memories, your truths. Nothing in this film is as it seems, and yet paradoxically everything is as it seems. We see everything through Guy Pearce's characters' (Lenny) eyes, unfortunately he has no short-term memory so cannot form new memories. He would have already forgotten the first sentence of this review. He lives in snapshots of life; his only form of memory is his Polaroid camera, just like in the excellent German film Wintersleepers; also (partly) about a short-term memory disorder.

In this film Lenny takes snapshots to remember who people are, where he now lives, his car, everything. As you can imagine this is perfect for paranoia, suspicion, uncertainty, confusion, and betrayal. And that's exactly what you get in extreme doses. The difference between this film and Wintersleepers however is that Memento is entirely from Lenny's perspective. This therefore creates an imaginative, creatively unsurpassable film. The film begins where it should end, so far so trite, but here's the beauty, we, like Guy Pearce, learn in fragments what's going on. It is therefore perfect for those who love to second guess what's going to happen, who did what, who's doing what and why. The beauty of this film though is that my interpretation could be so different from yours, and neither of us could be sure whose interpretation is the right one; if there is a right one at all. Nothing is certain, nothing is clear. Another beauty of this film is the way it is filmed and edited. Pieces are shown a number of times with no real linear link between them, just like it would be if we ourselves had a memory disorder, and then they are cut up and edited next to things that happen either before or after it. It's just like holding ten different and linearly distinct Polaroids in your hand and having a short-term memory disorder. Excellent.

I'm not even sure if watching it again will make things any less ambiguous, but then who cares? The ambiguity is what makes this a great film, if it wasn't so cut up, or from Lenny's perspective it would be both very short and trite; and lacking in tension, suspense and interest. But as it stands it has all three, isn't trite and says so much about humanity. Oh, and the plot? It really doesn't matter, all you need to know is that everything about this film is indicative of the subjectivity of memory, of our experiences and interpretations of all that happens to us. Nothing will seem as black and white as it did beforehand. It will make you question every memory you have, almost as much as possessing a psychology degree, as I do! So, go and see it: be confused, acknowledge the frailty of all you know to be true, and then imagine the freedom of actually being Lenny, and then the horror of having nothing, nothing but the reliance of a pen and a Polaroid camera to know who you are.
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10/10
The real thing!
jim-cook2 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
If you hate reality-based film-making this is awful. If you hate Film Noir, this is ugly. But for me, Nolan has convinced me he is one of the most important directors out there. I was even thinking, "It must be easy to edit a movie so that it's all backwards." But it's not, it's not any easier - and he leaves you straining and watching from scene to scene, searching for the truth. Even the final revelation will affect each viewer and leaves them searching for their own "ultimate truth" according to their own experience.

Most people comment about manipulation in connection with this movie, but after watching the last scene, I'm convinced that manipulation is not the main theme at all. I don't want to spoil it for you, but the basis of unfolding backwards in time is that you are enlisted to scrutinize the film trying to discover some set of motivations behind each character's actions later in time that makes sense. If you think you would enjoy this sort of puzzle, I think you will enjoy this excellently crafted film.
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9/10
Its not a gimmick, its something new
jbparker9 May 2001
Yes, it's true. The entire movie is based on a gimmick. However, I honestly feel that this does not cheapen the picture in the slightest bit. I loved every scene; discovering information as our lead character discovered it. It demands a second and third viewing, as there are many subtleties and quick flashes that may not be picked up on the first time around. Its one of the most original films ever made, and for people who scoff at the concept of not having a short-term memory, it actually is a real condition. Watch this movie. And, please pay attention. The performances are wonderful, and its structured magnificently.
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10/10
Best Movie of 2001 (Thus Far)
Chris Holland15 May 2001
Incredible, riveting and powerful. What else could I say? This movie has all of the qualities of classic film noir as well as the magnitude of an original, unique concept that has been tried and tired before but works here.

Guy Pearce has been underrated for years (just think back now to Priscilla and can you believe this is the same guy) and finally might get the recognition here that was at least well-deserved of him back for LA Confidential. Powerful perfomances, well developed story with suspensful buildup of what our main character pieces together little by little makes this a must see.

Easily in my top 100 of all time.
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9/10
A trip into the mind
Robertino Ruffinelli4 April 2009
If the director of this independent film tried to make us feel really confused, like the main character, he did it wonderfully. There are only a few movies like this one, the kind of movies that makes you pay attention to every minute of it. Obviously that doesn't work all the time, but this case is the exception. Really well directed with a wonderful photography and excellent cast. The main actors' performances are great. We really root for the guy as we hate the ones who try to take advantage of him.

Original films like this one always stand out. Perhaps it didn't caught much attention at first but now it is in an important position at the IMDb top 250 and that means that most the people recognize great movies when they see them.

As I said before, this movie is a little confusing because it runs backwards while the black and white scenes run in chronological order. But that wasn't a cheap trick to make the movie more "intelectual", it was its strength. A rare film that shouldn't be missed.
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9/10
Original and intriguing film noir revision.
EThompsonUMD2 October 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Revising such film noir conventions as a story told through the unreliable point of view and voice-over narration of a morally flawed investigator-protagonist, the pervasive infusion of a dark past into the narrative present, and the use of a femme fatale as an embodiment of evil allure, Memento is perhaps the most original and intriguing revision of the genre since Welles' Touch of Evil.

As almost every commentator has noted, the most startling (or 'gimmicky') feature of Memento - and one with obvious roots in the film noir tradition - is its inverted/contorted plot structure. The film loops backwards episodically to present a series of revelations about the main character, Lenny (Guy Pearce), about the motives of his antagonists 'Teddy' (Joe Pantolino) and 'Natalie' (Carrie Ann Moss), and about the nature of Lenny's memory-loss condition. His condition 'isn't amnesia' (or so Lenny tells everyone he meets) but rather such severe short term memory loss that he is unable to assimilate and retain experience - in other words, to make new memories. Consequently, Lenny's identity, or more precisely his self-knowledge, is arrested at the moment he received a blow to his head while trying to stop intruders from raping his wife.

Everything that has happened thereafter has no subjective reality for Lenny, only whatever 'objective' reality he can forge using instant photos, notes to himself, and - for the really important stuff - tattoos. But matters are even more complex and paradoxical than this setup might lead one to expect. Gradually, the viewer learns that even the clear memories that Lenny claims to have from before the assault are, like dreams, colored by protective distortions and selectivity. Moreover the so-called facts he has assembled in his investigation and that he defensively claims are more reliable than memory turn out to be irretrievably entangled in subjective motives: his own, Teddy's, and Natalie's. Thus the viewer's initial sympathy for Lenny as a justifiable victim/avenger transforms to horror as Lenny's true current identity becomes clear.

Importantly, Memento's regressive plot structure is punctuated and counter-pointed by a series of noirish black and white flashbacks in which Lenny relates to an anonymous phone caller the story of Sammy Jankis, another sufferer of short term memory loss who, ironically, was Lenny's big case in his pre-trauma life as an insurance investigator. Unlike the main narrative, the Sammy sequences are told in chronological order, strategically intersecting and organizing the narrative as it wends its way backwards to the moment when Lenny decides to set in motion the data trail that will lead to the murder we see him commit in the film's opening sequence. In addition, Lenny's reconstruction of the Sammy sequences is itself dreamlike and unreliable since he attributes to Sammy characteristics that (if we can believe Teddy, an utterly corrupt cop) are Lenny's own.

In addition to providing plot exposition and a recurring visual/narrative reference point, the Sammy sequences also bring into clear thematic focus the existential implications of memory loss. Like Sammy's, Lenny's 'condition' is a reduction to the most minimal and absurd level of the human mental processes for constructing meaning (in life, in film) out of fragmentary phenomena and evanescent recollections. In an age of Alzheimer's, deconstruction, and ego-fictions, most viewers will all-too-easily identify with Lenny's painfully hopeless and terrifyingly arbitrary quest to hold reality steady as is it fizzles and flits away.
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8/10
Not to be missed if you are looking for something clever and original. ***1/2 (out of four)
Movie-122 May 2001
MEMENTO / (2001) ***1/2 (out of four)

By Blake French:

How is this for a scenario? A man breaks into your house in the middle of the night. He kills your wife and leaves you with brain injuries. Furious, you pledge your life to track down and kill whoever is responsible. There is just one problem: after the head injury, you are no longer capable of creating new memories; everything before the accident is crystal clear, but now you cannot remember anything past several minutes.

Now chew on this: what happens to guilt if you cannot remember what you did? How can a person have emotions if he does not know where they came from? How can we learn from our experiences if we cannot remember them. What is the purpose of revenge if someone cannot recollect or prosper from it?

"Memento" wins this year's prize for inducing the most audience participation. Not only is the film thought-provoking and unusually absorbing, but it also places us in the main character's shoes. How can we be in the same mental status with the main character when he cannot remember anything? Writer/director Christopher Nolan has that answer: he tells the story backwards. We begin at the end and work our way towards the beginning. However, each individual scene plays running forward, often overlapping, providing us with clear, constructive transitions. The main character, Leonard, is confused in prospects of time and experience, and so are we.

Other characters include Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss, from "The Matrix"), who also lost someone close and can help Leonard, and Teddy (Joe Pantoliano, also from "The Matrix"), whose identity often shifts mysteriously. Then there is the series of flashbacks of Leonard's experiences while working as an insurance agent. The situation involves an individual named Sammy, who has a memory disorder similar to Leonard's. His diabetic spouse is not sure whether her husband is faking his condition or not. To prove it to herself she arranges a test I dare not reveal. Leonard is more intricately involved in this story than he even believes.

"Memento" is smart and imaginative. It doesn't pass up little details of the characters. Leonard is constantly jotting himself notes and taking Polaroid pictures so his life can make some sense. He even gets permanent tattoos all over his body so he does not lose or forget some of the most important information.

In a movie like this, it would be almost impossible to make without leaving some information out; even some of the film's actors were confused and requested a script told in sequence order. But these filmmakers have constructed a movie with a plot hole big enough to drive a semi through: If Leonard cannot remember anything after the accident, then how can he remember that he has a memory condition? There are no tattoos or notes to remind him, and whenever he meets someone he explains his condition thoroughly. This is necessary information he reveals, but there are better ways to do so. We could be there when his doctor explains the condition to him, or see his friends talking about it. The sky is the limit in a movie like this. It was not essential to leave such a massive, obvious hole in the plot.

"Memento" is still a unique mystery thriller. It is a tantalizing experience we do not often come across at the movies. For audiences who like to sit back and relax, this film is a waste of time. It requires us to follow along, participate, fit puzzle pieces together-"Memento" doesn't provide any easy or obvious answers. All but the most intelligent and thoughtful kids will not be able to follow this film; it is intended for adult audiences. "Memento" is one of the year's most challenging movies, not to be missed if you are looking for something clever and original.
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10/10
Overview and analysis behind the shocking plot.
kylemyle7281 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
During the movie "Memento," the audience is left guessing throughout the whole movie until the very end. It has a unique style of presenting the plot in which the movie begins with a scene and then it plays backwards from there. While the movie jumps backwards scene by scene, there is also a transition played in black and white that is continuously playing forwards until a certain point. It is not until the very end of the movie where the scenes played in color meet with the ones played in black and white. This is where the climax of the movie occurs and all the revelations of each characters role are revealed. It is a must see and you will not regret it.

In the end of the movie we find out that the main character Lenny, who suffers from short term memory loss, has been tricked by his so called friend Teddy, into killing a drug dealer. Throughout the whole movie Lenny is on a quest to kill the murderer of his wife, who is in fact Lenny himself. Lenny gets the identity of himself and a man named Sammy Jenkis confused and we find out that Lenny is in fact Sammy. It leads us to believe that Lenny has used his brain condition to illicit forgetting what really happened to his wife to clear himself of shame and anger. This caused him to create Sammy Jenkis and allows him to believe that the ones who assaulted his wife and gave him the brain condition were the ones who supposedly killed his wife. We find out that Teddy, who is a local cop, has already helped Lenny kill the man who assaulted his wife. Yet Lenny forgot all about it and Teddy kept the proof and then used Lenny for his own benefit to kill a drug dealer for money. Once Lenny figures this out in the end of the movie he decides to burn all the evidence and leaves himself a clue that indicates Teddy is in fact the one who killed his wife. Lenny then leaves the scene reminding himself that he is still alive and then as fast as it was all revealed it is then forgotten. This leads us back into the rest of the movie in which we had already seen in reverse order.

When the movie is over the audience is left shocked and slightly confused about how to view Lenny. He acts as if he is an innocent man who has now become a conscious free murderer. He forgets everything he doesn't write down but he is the one choosing to leave out the facts that he finds out on multiple occasions that he is in fact a murderer for pleasure. It started as pay back but for someone who forgets the feeling so easily and has no direction to his life, why not make it a hobby. It's odd to think about that he is spending all his effort searching for his wife's killer when in reality it is Lenny he is looking for. He takes the lives of others to free him of guilt which in the end makes him more of a villain than the movies hero.
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The Reverse Genius Principle
dunmore_ego28 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
9) And that's when we realize we could never be sure of anything to begin with.

8) When Leonard eventually thinks he has found his wife's killer, eleventh-hour reveals shock us with the possibility that his whole crisis may be nothing more than delusion.

7) Editing this movie must have been like navigating inside Las Vegas hotels with no watch or compass: sex and drug distractions, deprivation of day or night, no signposts or exit signs, and of course, nauseous on cheap shrimp and hairy tequila. Untold credit to editor, Dody Dorn, for shuffling the deck as confusingly as possible, yet weaving the tale as tightly as a sanitarium wicker basket.

6) But every few minutes, the movie twists back on itself, each flashback a segment of Leonard's life that happened just before the segment we have just seen – and with each flashback, we realize just how wrong Leonard is about who his friends are, his past life, clues to the killer, his quest *in toto.* By about the fourth paragraph we realize: this piece is running backwards.

5) From Jonathan Nolan's short story, *Memento Mori*, we meet Leonard mid-investigation, slumming it in a cockroach motel, having lost his job as insurance consultant, looking disheveled (as Guy Pierce can do so natchelly), and optimistically on the trail of the murderer; hanging with gregarious Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), and involved with hot bod, Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), both of whom seem to be aiding Leonard catch his killer.

4) Leonard's last "new memory" was the murder of his wife. During the scuffle with his wife's killer, a blow to the head caused his memory faculty to shut down. Whether this is truly biologically possible (if you cannot make new memories, how do you even shop for food and water or pay the rent?), for the movie's purposes, it means Leonard must piece together clues to his wife's killer through copious notes, tattoos on his own body and Polaroids. But the truth will forever elude him and the clues that lead to the killer are mere wraiths, the products of his own "selective" reasoning.

3) The harder you strive for something, the harder it is to grasp. But what you care least about - or that you were never striving for – falls into your lap. Some call this the path of least resistance, but it's actually called The Reverse Genius Principle. And Leonard - all ephemeral ideas and misplaced action – is a Reverse Genius in full throttle.

2) Guy Pearce is the memory-challenged Leonard, who is trying so hard to move forward – to find his wife's killer, but unable to create "new memories" to retain info - that he ends up moving backward. Thusly, writer-director Christopher Nolan has crafted a film where the clues to a murder fall neatly OUT of place. Backwards.

1) *Memento* opens with a killing. We don't know why. We don't know who.
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Skin as Photograph
tedg14 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I rate this very high on my scale, primarily for its ambition and intellect.

Usually I get annoyed at IMDB comments that report the story as if it were important, but it is here:

---Lenny's home is attacked, wife raped, him injured. He develops this `condition' which has no physical cause. In other words, the condition is invented. The insurance investigator (Sammy Jankins), uncovers him as a fraud by using electrified test blocks. Knowing this, his wife challenges him and he `accidentally' kills her rather than face the condition. Sent to a hospital, he escapes and ties up with the cop who investigated the case. Together, they track down the petty crook and kill him. Over time, the condition becomes more pronounced and embedded. The cop (Teddy) is crooked and exploits Lenny in a doublecross drug deal, getting him to kill Jimmy. Jimmy's girlfriend Natalie also manipulates Lenny to first chase off Dodd (who is looking for the missing money). Lenny decides to get even with Teddy, so plants a seed that he will use later to justify killing Teddy.

---It is essential to know that Lenny was never an insurance investigator, and that his condition is self-delusional. The order and ritual is not to cope with, but to create the condition. Remembering his wife increases the intensity behind the psychosis -- remembering his investigator gives him identity and focus in refining the condition -- knowing all this transforms the idea behind the film into something of genius.

That's because it is deeply self-referential: us looking at a film, especially at a mystery, is just the same as looking at a few polaroids and trying to create/remember a past. Watching movies is self-delusional, and with detective stories it is a game of wits between viewer and writer to outwit and manipulate each other just as here between Lenny and Teddy. (The filmmaker calls us, we shouldn't answer, but we forget.) This film goes further. An actor forms the picture by putting words on it; in the case of acting, the `picture' is the body, so it makes sense for the clue/words to appear on his body.

The combination of the three (words on skin, remembrances of images past, the mind duel with the writer) adds up to a pretty mind-expanding framework. That alone transports the intelligent viewer to another world, a shocking world of self. This makes the film important, and an important film deserves criticism.

So what could be better?

The ink on skin as referential of film acting was done so much more elegantly and deeply with `Pillow Book.' The playing with time was moderately clever compared to the other, deeper games in this film -- but it could have been much more challenging. It could have stuttered (`Limey') could have folded (`Pulp Fiction') could have paralleled (`Run Lola Run') could have spiralled deeper (`Snake Eyes'). Maybe in the next film.

I did not think the eye of the camera was very clever. This had `noirish' writing but not filming. More like the later `DOA' in the black and white would have really spun. The dialog and plot were needlessly simple. If I am going to go to the trouble to displace my mind for a day or two, I want it shifted beyond Jupiter. That the story was so simple was pandering to the dumb masses and annoyed.

But the biggest flaw was our friend Guy. Moss is not a real actress. Guy is, but he's of the rather simple kind, who thinks he plays a character. Consider what this film is: it is a film about films first, and within that we have a character inventing another character and reality. That's three roles in one. Woody Allen made a similar movie so far as this matter: `Sweet and Lowdown.' It was a fake documentary about a guy who created a stage persona which he subsequently adopted. Simple stuff plotwise compared to `Memento.' But it had Sean Penn. Watch Sean play three roles at once, weaving them into a complex multidimensional space. This film was intelligent enough in its conception to warrant such texture, to have the actor remind us that we are him and he isn't.
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10/10
One of my favorites-Excellent!!!
rabidwolf4172 August 2007
I was totally blown away by this movie. I think this is a total masterpiece. I wish I could have thought of something as ingenious as this. I recommend it to anyone that enjoys a good mystery, acting, editing, directing, plot. I can and have watched it over and over again. This should have won for best picture the year it came out. Go out and rent it. Go and watch it. Go out and buy it. you will not be disappointed. This movie is about a guy who loses his short term memory and tries to hunt down his wife's rapist and killer. I won't say anything else. It is a masterpiece, thought not perfect it probably should be about a 9.8 on the IMDb but I'll give it a 10 out of 10.
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5/10
Clever I guess, but not that enjoyable to watch
noahk2 November 2001
Another cleverly done example of backwards story telling, from the Pulp Fiction school.. Unlike Pulp Fiction, the backwards element got annoying and tiresome fast in this film. It certainly was a creepy film, maybe even affecting (time will tell, since I just watched it), but I didn't find it all that enjoyable. The ending was unsatisfying for me, after sitting through the previous hour and fifty minutes (yes, I found myself watching the clock to count down when it would wrap up). I suppose I could get a bit more out of it with repeated watchings, but I don't really care enough to bother with that. I would give this one a 5/10, although few of you will probably agree with me so let the flames begin!
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Okay, what am I doing? Oh, I'm chasing that guy.
DarthFoole16 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
What I generally look for in a good movie is character development. If nothing changes in the characters' personalities, I have trouble enjoying the film, as it loses a certain sense of realism. One method of character development that I particularly enjoy is that of the "revealing" method, finding out more about a person's personality by being shown information. Many people mention The Usual Suspects when reviewing Memento and I can't help using it as well. This method of character development is used very well in that movie also, in the twist at the end. I felt that Leonard's character developed extremely well in that we were shown bits of his personality at a time and it was not until the end that we found out what he was truly all about. *Spoiler comment at end*

This film, with its memory-troubled main character, reminded me of a sub-plot in the Kurt Vonnegut novel, The Sirens of Titan, in which the main Character, Malachi Constant, must endure repetitive memory wipes, only knowing what is going on by re-reading a series of notes that he writes to himself.

I was going to mention something else about Memento, but I forgot it. Maybe I should have written myself a note.

***

***

***

***Spoiler comment below***

***

I really enjoyed the sequence of shots in which Leonard realizes that he's crazy and consciously decides to prolong his fictitious search by leaving himself a note that is, in effect, a lie. The idea of lying to oneself brings up entirely new issues of paranoia that I thoroughly dig.

Will have to count next time i see it, the number of times that Teddy tries to get the keys to Leonard's car. I think it may be as many as six.

small plot hole, the Jaguar's car alarm goes off when the window is shot, but the alarm had not been armed.

***

***

***End Spoiler***

***

***
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9/10
Brilliant culmination of a series of anti-detective thrillers.(possible spoilers)
Alice Liddel15 November 2000
Warning: Spoilers
It is refreshing to see a (relatively) mainstream thriller that does not follow the tired old rules, that uses Resnais, rather than Mel Gibson, as a starting point, that substitutes for an inevitable linear plot a temporal time bomb, where the straight line of events is smashed to pieces and put together with seeming haphazardness. Further, this plot is told completely from one character's point-of-view, a character as we by now know, with short-term memory. His great boast is that he remembers his identity and memory up until the accident - the denouement suggests that even this is a myth.

So what is the plot we're watching? Has the emotional shock of finally getting revenge had the required, cathartic effect, and that Leonard Shelby is now piecing back the bits of remembered past? Or is he, in effect, a dead man, if we agree that someone does not exist as an identity without memory, exists in a kind of limbo, and that this dead Leonard is watching his life flashing before (or behind) him?

As all the 'revelations' at the end take place in the narrative's begining, Leonard is denied all the action hero's usual rewards - increased self-knowledge, knowledge of the world and the plot. He is given the answers at the start of his plot, and forgets them. Leonard at the end (his beginning) is a more coherent character than at the beginning (his end) - is this just because we've given a mass of (highly dubious) information by then and think we know him and his situation better? Or is he, as his narrative progresses, getting vaguer, moving towards inertia, the catatonia that finally swamped his altar-ego Sammy Jankis.

Our problem is that the film comprises not one plot, but four, all fragmented, full of gaping black holes, all mediated by this character who knows nothing. One is Leonard's narrative as he sees it, as he tries to avenge his wife's murder. The second is told in monochrome flashback (or whatever this is called in a film that runs backward), mostly told in mysterious phone calls, and seem to flesh out the gaps missing in the first plot, but actually creates more. The third is the 'real' plot that may have something to do with cops, snitches, femmes fatales, or may be hallucinated, misremembered by Leonard, or simply planted there as cover for another plot, or may not even exist at all. The fourth is the story of Sammy, who suffered the same 'condition' as Leonard.

All four are obviously connected with each other to create a discordant fugue, but each undermines the other; in a sense, hell is other plots, and Leonard is in hell. We can only take the opening sequence, where Leonard stands holding a fading photograph over a dead man's bloody body as the only 'reliable' image, and in this 'reliable' image, another, the photograph, is slipping away, ungraspable, like Leonard's memory, like the film.

In another sense, though, what this film does is what any detective story does, which is work its way bakwards from the crime to its source. This is what Dupin, Holmes and Poirot do, followed by legions of TV and movie detectvies. This film just takes this journey literally. In a conventional detective story, this travelling into the past is a way of making the present and future safe, of reasserting order, of filling up the gaps. As Leonard doesn't succeed in reaching the source, and as the audience flounders too, there can be no reassertion of present and future.

Leonard is the logical conclusion of a long line of anti-detectives, figures who do not solve the crime, who are personally implicated in the investigation, and are eventually destroyed by it. 'Vertigo''s Scottie Ferguson is the most famous example, others include 'The Spider's Strategem', 'Blow-up' and 'The Parallax View'. These films offer detectives who do not order chaos, who cannot reorder the world, in the way Holmes used to. Crime, solution and detective get lost in a temporal vacuum, never to be saved.

These abstractions are firmly grounded in 'Memento' in the body and the eye; Guy Pearce's rather splendid physique as palimpsest, where history is recorded at random, where the keys of interpretation are lost. The split between mind and body is complete, and with it the essence of our unified humanity. Similarly, with all the Polaroids he takes, the camera may never lie, but, as discrete entities, images are meaningless, in narrative terms anyway.
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3/10
Very boring movie
rauh-georg28 September 2008
It eludes me how this movie has gotten such high ratings and even two Oscar nominations.

This movie is for the most part mind-boggling boring, with endless repetitive sequences of how our main character writes notes, tries to remember certain events or persons. This goes on for about 80% of the movie in an desperate attempt to create "suspense"...but it gets tiresome. The end admittedly had a moderate surprising twist...however, from a certain point of view, the end was also predictable and, somehow, disappointing. The only positive thing about the movie is a good performance by Carrie Ann Moss, however the main character did not convince me, neither did the plot. (If there was one, besides of a repetitive line-up of the character's confusion and attempts by him to puzzle together memories.) This movie is breathtakingly boring and the ending *extremely* underwhelming. One of the movies which is praised about all over, you watch it - and it turns out a huge disappointment.
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5/10
how exhausting watching this !
shoplifter4 February 2007
I just don't understand what it is that makes this movie so popular, especially with male viewers, I mean 8.6? Come on, what is that?! ...

Leonard suffers from short-term memory loss and tracks back using notes and body parts to find the man who killed his wife. On his journey he encounters a number of people who he has to be able to assess at first sight because of his deficiency.

The acting by Guy Pearce is very convincing and even appealing but the story however is most of the time way too irritating because you constantly have to backtrack yourself in order to completely understand what's going on. I like flashbacks in movies but a film that turns out to be one big flashback by itself may be a little too demanding for me. I guess this is just not my kind of entertainment ...
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9/10
Fantastic
Mike Keating14 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Memento sees Guy Pearce play Leonard Shelby, a man with no short term memory, on a search for his wife's killer in a film which is intelligent, engaging, well thought out, and sometimes, even funny.

Memento demands your full concentration, and its backwards development is a stroke of genius, placing you in the same situation as Leonard; you see what he sees, and aside from small clues, very little else. This way of engaging its audience is what makes Memento special, as it draws you into the plot and Leonard's complex situation without leaving you lost amidst the chronology or bogged down in little clues. This is also helped by Guy Pearce's performance; he remains likable for most of the film, his little jokes and his honesty helping you side with him, but he also shows evidence of a darker side, especially towards the end (the beginning?), as Teddy (Pantoliano) plants the seed of doubt in his mind.

Basically, Memento is a very good film, an intelligent, engaging storyline that keeps you interested even after it ends.
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